United States District Court, District of Columbia
JON R. ROGERS, Plaintiff,
EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS, Defendant.
B. WALTON United States District Judge
plaintiff, Jon R. Rogers, brings this civil action against
the defendant, the Executive Office for United States
Attorneys (“EOUSA”), for its alleged failure to
comply with the Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2018), and the
Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and for its alleged common
law breach of contract. Complaint (“Compl.”)
¶ 1. Currently pending before the Court are the
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment
(“Def.'s Mot.”) and the Plaintiff's
Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and Response in Opposition
to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Document #6)
(“Pl.'s Cross-Mot.”). Upon careful
consideration of the parties' submissions,  the Court
concludes for the following reasons that it must grant the
defendant's motion to dismiss and for summary judgment
and deny the plaintiff's cross-motion for summary
the 1990s and 2000s, [the] [p]laintiff was the target of
at least two federal criminal investigations, ”
Pl.'s Facts ¶ 1; Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Facts
¶ 1, but “was never charged with a crime,
” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 2; Def.'s Reply to
Pl.'s Facts ¶ 2. According to the plaintiff,
“[d]uring [the] second investigation, the government
seized many of [the plaintiff's] assets, and it filed
four civil forfeiture actions [(the “civil forfeiture
actions”)] ¶ 2003 and 2004.” Compl. ¶
9. On August 1, 2012, the “[p]laintiff entered into a
[s]ettlement [a]greement [(the ‘Settlement
Agreement')] with the [Internal Revenue Service
(“IRS”)], in order to obtain the return of a
large sum of assets that the government had seized and
refused to return.” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3;
Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3.
Settlement Agreement “resulted in the dismissal of
[the] civil forfeiture actions.” Def.'s Facts
¶ 2. In relevant part, the Settlement Agreement states:
Jon R. Rogers, his assigns, and heirs, hereby unconditionally
release and forever discharge the United States . . . from
and against any and all manner of claims, actions, causes of
action, rights, set-offs, promises, allegations, expenses,
assessments, penalties, charges, injuries, losses, costs,
obligations, duties, suits, proceedings, debts, dues,
contracts, judgments, damages, claims, counterclaims,
liabilities and/or demands of every kind, character and
manner whatsoever in law or equity, administrative or
judicial, contract, tort (including negligence of all kinds)
or otherwise, whether known or unknown, claimed or unclaimed,
asserted or unasserted, suspected or unsuspected, discovered
or undiscovered, choate or inchoate, accrued or unaccrued,
anticipated or unanticipated, contingent or fixed, for, upon,
or by reason of any and all matters whatsoever, related to
and/or in connection with or arising out of these Forfeiture
Def.'s Mot., Exhibit (“Ex.”) 1 (Settlement
Agreement) ¶ 9.
November 29, 2012, [the] [p]laintiff submitted a . . .
FOIA request to several agencies, including [the
defendant] and the IRS, ” seeking documents related to
the civil forfeiture actions. Def.'s Facts ¶¶
4, 5; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 4. According to the plaintiffs,
in April 2013, the “[d]efendant required payment of
$548 from [the] [p]laintiff (which [the] [p]laintiff paid),
upon receipt of which [the] [d]efendant stated that
‘documents will be released to you.'”
Pl.'s Facts ¶ 5. After failing to respond to
repeated requests by the plaintiff for an update regarding
the processing of the plaintiff's FOIA request, Pl.'s
Facts ¶ 6, “[i]n September 2016, [the] [d]efendant
denied [the] [p]laintiff's FOIA request, relying on the
terms of the [ ] Settlement Agreement, ” Pl.'s
Facts ¶ 7; Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7.
In 2016, the plaintiff appealed the defendant's denial of
his FOIA request to the United States Department of
Justice's Office of Information Policy
(“OIP”), which “granted [the]
[p]laintiff's administrative appeal and promised that
[the defendant] ‘w[ould] send' [the] [p]laintiff
documents.” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 8; Def.'s Reply
to Pl.'s Facts ¶ 8. The “[d]efendant then made
subsequent assurances that it would produce documents”
to the plaintiff.” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 9; Def.'s
Reply to Pl.'s Facts ¶ 9. However, the
“[d]efendant has not produced . . . [any] document[s]
to [the] [p]laintiff, ” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 10;
Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Facts ¶ 10. On February
26, 2018, the plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court,
seeking to compel the production of the documents that he
requested. Compl. at 1. In response, the defendant
filed its motion for summary judgment in its favor on the
plaintiff's FOIA and Privacy Act claims and to dismiss
the plaintiff's breach of contract claim, see
Def.'s Mot. at 1, and the plaintiff then filed his
cross-motion for summary judgment, see Pl.'s
Cross-Mot. at 1. These motions are the subject of this
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss
[district] courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994), and “[a] motion for dismissal under
[Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(1) ‘presents a
threshold challenge to the [C]ourt's jurisdiction,
'” Morrow v. United States, 723 F.Supp.2d
71, 75 (D.D.C. 2010) (Walton, J.) (quoting Haase v.
Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987)). Thus, the
Court is obligated to dismiss a claim if it “lack[s] .
. . subject-matter jurisdiction.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). Because “[i]t is to be presumed that a cause
lies outside [a federal court's] limited jurisdiction,
” Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377, the plaintiff
bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the
evidence that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction,
see Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561
deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction, the Court “need not limit itself to the
allegations of the complaint.” Grand Lodge of the
Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9,
14 (D.D.C. 2001). Rather, the “[C]ourt may consider
such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate
to resolve the questions [of] whether it has jurisdiction
[over] the case.” Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections
& Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000);
see Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d
1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Additionally, the Court must
“assume the truth of all material factual allegations
in the complaint and ‘construe the complaint liberally,
granting [the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that
can be derived from the facts alleged.'” Am.
Nat'l Ins. Co. v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 642 F.3d
1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Thomas v.
Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005)). However,
“the [p]laintiff's factual allegations in the
complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a
12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for
failure to state a claim.” Grand Lodge, 185
F.Supp.2d at 13-14 (alterations in original) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, to survive a
motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6),
the “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see Kowal v. MCI
Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)
(noting that the plaintiff is entitled to “the benefits
of all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged”). Although the Court must accept the facts
pleaded as true, legal allegations devoid of factual support
are not entitled to this presumption. See, e.g.,
Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276. Along with the allegations
made within the four corners of the complaint, the Court may
also consider “any documents either attached to or
incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [it] may
take judicial notice.” EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier
Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
Rule 56 Motion for Summary Judgment
Court must “grant summary judgment if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. See Holcomb v.
Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 150 (2000)). The Court must therefore draw “all
justifiable inferences” in the non-moving party's
favor and accept the non-moving party's evidence as true.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). The non-moving party, however, cannot rely on
“mere allegations or denials.” Burke v.
Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus,
“[c]onclusory allegations unsupported by factual data
will not create a triable issue of fact.” Pub.
Citizen Health Research Grp. v. FDA, 185 F.3d 898, 908
(D.C Cir. 1999) (Garland, J., concurring) (alteration in
original) (quoting Exxon Corp. v. FTC, 663 F.2d 120,
126-27 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). If the Court concludes that
“the non[-]moving party has failed to make a sufficient
showing on an essential element of [its] case with respect to
which [it] has the burden of proof, ” then the moving
party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). At bottom, “in
ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the [C]ourt
shall grant summary judgment only if one of the moving
parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of law upon
material facts that are not genuinely disputed.”
Shays v. FEC, 424 F.Supp.2d 100, 109 (D.D.C. 2006).
cases typically are resolved on a motion for summary
judgment.” Ortiz v. U.S. Dep't of Justice,
67 F.Supp.3d 109, 116 (D.D.C. 2014); see also Defs. of
Wildlife v. U.S. Border Patrol, 623 F.Supp.2d 83, 87
(D.D.C. 2009). “[The] FOIA requires federal agencies to
disclose, upon request, broad classes of agency records
unless the records are covered by the statute's
exemptions.” Students Against Genocide v. U.S.
Dep't of State, 257 F.3d 828, 833 (D.C. Cir. 2001).
In a FOIA action, the defendant agency has “[the]
burden of demonstrating that the withheld documents are
exempt from disclosure.” Boyd v. Crim. Div. of U.S.
Dep't of Justice, 475 F.3d 381, 385 (D.C. Cir. 2007)
(citation omitted). The Court will grant summary judgment to
the government in a FOIA case only if the agency can prove
“that it has fully discharged its obligations under the
FOIA, after the underlying facts and the inferences to be
drawn from them are construed in the light most favorable to
the FOIA requester.” Friends of Blackwater v. U.S.
Dep't of Interior, 391 F.Supp.2d 115, 119 (D.D.C.
2005) (quoting Greenberg v. U.S. Dep't of
Treasury, 10 F.Supp.2d 3, 11 (D.D.C. 1988)). Thus, in a
lawsuit brought to compel the production of documents under
the FOIA, “an agency is entitled to summary judgment if
no material facts are in dispute and if it demonstrates
‘that each document that falls within the class
requested has either been produced . . . or is wholly[, or
partially, ] exempt from [disclosure].'”
Students Against Genocide, 257 F.3d at 833 (first
alteration in original) (quoting Goland v. CIA, 607
F.2d 339, 352 (D.C. Cir. 1978)).
plaintiff asserts three causes of action in his Complaint:
(1) violation of the FOIA, see Compl. ¶¶
38-41; (2) violation of the Privacy Act, see id.
¶¶ 42-45; and (3) common law breach of contract,
see id. ¶¶ 46-54. The defendant moves to
dismiss the plaintiff's breach of contract claim and for
summary judgment in its favor on the plaintiff's FOIA and
Privacy Act claims. See Def.'s Mem. at 1. The
plaintiff opposes the defendant's motion to dismiss his
breach of contract claim and cross-moves for summary judgment
in his favor on his FOIA and Privacy Act claims. See
Pl.'s Mem. at 2. The Court will address each of the
parties' motions in turn.
The Defendant's ...